The Best Things in Life . . . Have Been There Since High School

Cindy Weyant plays chess at the National Open in Las Vegas in 2010. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Cindy played chess at the National Open in Las Vegas in 2010. Attending a chess tournament en masse is the Newhall family’s idea of a good time. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Jon looked at me over the telephone receiver. His brother was calling. “Cindy died,” he said. “She died last night. In her sleep.”

I wasn’t expecting this. I should have. I knew that our niece had multiple sclerosis and that the disease would shorten her life. But Cindy was only 51. I didn’t think her life would be that short.

Cindy had been making plans to meet the family in Las Vegas for the National Open chess tournament in June. She’d been on Facebook just days ago. Then, overnight, she was gone.

My mind grasped around for a way to take the news in. I wanted to erase it, or at least modify it, turn it into something acceptable. But there was no getting rid of this new fact.

My thoughts turned to my old high school friend Karel and her husband. The two had been in town the previous weekend and had spent a day or two with Jon and me.

Barbara Falconer Newhall with her high school friend Karel. Photo by David Falconer

That’s Karel on the right with me back in our Bermuda shorts days. Photo by David Falconer

We’d shared a meal at Camino down on Grand Avenue. We’d strolled the Oakland Museum’s history wing. And the four of us had spent a morning sitting in our den, cheering Bob and Karel’s team – Michigan State – on to victory over Louisville in the NCAA basketball quarter-finals.

My own team, the University of Michigan (and State’s arch rival), was not in the running. Which meant I could throw myself wholeheartedly into rooting for Karel’s team.

Karel’s visit had left me with a nice glow. It seemed that friendships, the old ones, really do endure. And times like these with old friends really are the very best moments we get to have during our rocky, uncertain forays on planet Earth.

What could I do about Cindy – her cruelly shortened life and our family’s loss of her bright presence? Not a thing.

And what could I do about the fact that my own life now seemed in peril? I read the paper every morning over oatmeal and green tea thinking that I have the whole day — and weeks and years — in front of me. The truth is, like Cindy, I don’t have time to squander. My days are numbered.

What to do about that? The answer is obvious: Get with friends as often as you can, especially the old ones. Whenever possible, cheer their teams on to victory.

That’s all I’ve got.

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To learn more about my book, Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith, just out from Patheos Press, go to



  1. I’m so sorry about your niece, Barbara – what a terrible shock. I’m glad your friendship with Karel is giving you some support – and perspective. Appreciate you sharing it and sending condolences.

  2. Jan Cadwell Lippert says:

    Wonderful story! Loved the picture. xx

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